Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!

Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!

This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite 🙂

The Basics

Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl 😉

They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.

(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around 🙂

The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

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Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Course Desserts
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
Course Desserts
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Instructions
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
  4. Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
  5. Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
  7. Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  8. When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
  9. If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Ganache Topping
  1. Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
  3. Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  4. Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe 🙂
  6. Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
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Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream

Need a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream to fill eclairs, cream puffs, or even a croquembouche? LOOK NO FURTHER!

This recipe was the result of not having enough cow’s milk to make a pastry cream. I had almond milk and as a substitute the results worked quite well! It is likely not quite as “rich” tasting, as almond milk is thinner, but still very yummy. I also like this recipe because it uses cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate, which I don’t always have on hand.

This, BTW, is thicker than a traditional chocolate pudding, on purpose. The sturdiness lends itself well to filling the inside of things. With enough cooling time to firm up, this would totally work in a dairy-free cream pie.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream
A nice firm pastry cream, perfect for the inside of cream puffs, eclairs, or even filling a pie!
Course Desserts
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Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place a fine mesh strainer inside of a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together your dry ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine almond milk with egg yolks and vanilla extract.
  4. While whisking, drizzle your milk mixture into the saucepan. Try to get the lumps out the best you can.
  5. Place saucepan on medium high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until boiling. It will start to thicken up considerably. Cook 30 seconds longer while whisking. Remove from heat.
  6. Immediately strain the hot mixture into a bowl. This will remove all the bits of egg, cornstarch clumps, etc. ALTERNATIVE - if you want a cream pie, strain mixture directly into a ready-to-eat pie crust.
  7. Wait 5 minutes and cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on it. This will prevent a "skin" from forming.
  8. Cool 2 hours and use to fill cream puffs, eclairs, or a cream pie.
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Mint Trifle

Week 5 of the Reddit 52-week baking challenge was trifles. I have never made one of these before, but have drooled many a time at pictures of them. Mint isn’t generally a winter favorite of mine (cool and refreshing are for summer!), but my son is a huge fan of mint so I threw him a bone this week 😉

The dark chocolate layer you see is a fabulous Taste of Home chocolate chiffon cake – http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-chiffon-cake – The icing was left off since I was just going to cut it up into chunks anyway. This cake was so light and airy, and my daughter actually (almost) requested this specific cake for her birthday. A winner!

The white layer is just a standard homemade whipped cream, i.e. heavy cream tossed with a bit of sugar and whipped up.

Finally, the Leprechaun-green color is a mint pudding. I had to “wing it” for this, as the only recipes I found online were for chocolate mint pudding, and that wouldn’t get me a cool green color 🙂 Layers are alternated, and a few crushed Andes candies are on top for good measure.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Mint Trifle
An easy and versatile recipe! Just cake, pudding, and whipped cream in alternating layers.
mint trifle
Course Desserts
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Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
mint trifle
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add in milk while whisking. Add your food coloring now; I used about 3 drops of green leaf gel coloring.
  2. Cook on medium heat while whisking. It will thicken and start to boil. Boil for 1 minute more while stirring.
  3. Take about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding and mix with your egg yolks in a separate small bowl. You are "tempering" them so you don't get scrambled eggs! Now add your yolks back into your saucepan of boiling pudding. Keep whisking and boil for 1 more minute.
  4. Stir in the cut up butter and peppermint extract.
  5. Strain your hot pudding into a separate bowl to get rid of lumps. Pour into dessert cups, Pyrex container, another bowl, etc. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes and place plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up and get cold.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's vanilla pudding.

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Little Lemon Pudding Cakes

Something about winter makes me crave lemon/lime/orange stuff. Maybe my body trying to avoid scurvy during these cold and gray Pennsylvania days? I’m not entirely sure, but it will be my excuse for making these lovely little lemon pudding cakes!

You may be asking, “Wait…is this PUDDING or CAKE? Make up your mind, woman!” They are in fact both – light springy cake on top and creamy lemon pudding hiding underneath. Perfect for 35 degree weather and pretending it’s another season entirely!

You will find exactly zero lemon zest in this recipe because I truly hate zesting anything. Maybe I have the wrong tools, maybe probably I’m too lazy to scrape my knuckles against my grater for a teaspoon of fruit peel, but I’ll pass on that nonsense. I have, however, found a close second to zesting…CITRUS OILS. Think extracts but stronger and much less is needed. They give fabulous flavor without the hassle 🙂

Enjoy!

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Little Lemon Pudding Cakes
Easy to bake lemon pudding cakes in individual portion sizes.
lemon pudding cakes
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
lemon pudding cakes
Instructions
  1. Grease 6 ramekins and lightly dust with a bit of sugar. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Using a hand mixer, gently blend together egg yolks, milk, bottled lemon juice, and lemon flavoring oil. You want a smooth consistency.
  4. Sift your flour, sugar, and salt into the egg/milk mixture and blend the batter briefly.
  5. In another small bowl, mix your egg whites until the soft peak stage. Fold the whites into your lemon batter.
  6. Ladle your batter into your ramekins and place them into a large pan. I just used a glass 13 x 9, but you could use something smaller as long as the ramekins fit inside with room around them.
  7. Pour water into the pan around and halfway up the sides of the ramekins; you are making a water bath to gently bake your cakes.
  8. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until your cakes are lightly browned and springy to the touch. Lightly dust powdered sugar on top. Enjoy warm or room temp!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Savory magazine, Light Lemon Pudding Cakes, January 2017 issue

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Garlic Breadsticks

Some meals just lend themselves to a side of bread. A few that come to mind are spaghetti, your standard meat and potatoes meal, or a hearty bowl of soup. These garlic breadsticks are quick and easy enough to serve alongside any of those, or as an appetizer to dip in marinara sauce or a good olive oil.

Have you ever seen a fabulous bread recipe, but realize it takes 22.5 hours to make and it’s just not.going.to.happen? Especially if it happens to be a half-hour before my family wants to stuff some grub in their faces. Said recipe is then relegated to my “one day” pile, as in one day I’ll get to it when I have 22.5 spare hours. For most other days when I don’t have spare time, these breadsticks are my go-to for a soft, garlicky side. If you aren’t into (or don’t want!) lengthy kneading or a 2-hour rise time, you are in luck. These tasty morsels only require about 10 minutes to proof and you are good to go.

The picture shows them without cheese, but this recipe would lend itself well to a bit of improvisation. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top or other spices that suit your fancy would totally work.

If you have any left (unlikely), then just pop your cooled leftovers into a Ziploc baggie to warm up later. Like almost every bread product I’ve ingested, these are just tastier warm 😉

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Garlic Breadsticks
A quick and easy garlic breadstick recipe. Great as a side dish for dinner or a yummy appetizer for dipping.
garlic breadsticks bread
Course Side Dish
Servings
sticks
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Servings
sticks
Ingredients
garlic breadsticks bread
Instructions
  1. In a measuring cup, add the warm water, olive oil, sugar, and yeast. Lightly whisk together and leave to sit in a warm spot for 5 minutes or so.
  2. In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Using a mixer with a dough hook, add in your water/yeast. It will be a goopy mess, but add in the remaining flour until you have a nice smooth ball that doesn't stick to you. If you need to add in a sprinkle more, that's okay.
  3. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot for 10 minutes. You aren't looking for a doubling in size, just a bit puffed up.
  4. Preheat to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Using a lightly floured surface, grab slightly larger than golfball-sized pieces of dough and use your hands to roll them into breadstick shapes, roughly 6 inches, but a little bigger is okay too. I get 12 from this recipe, but you could get more if you make them a little smaller. They will puff up in the oven, so keep them about 2 inches apart from each other.
  6. Melt half of your butter and brush over your sticks.
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size, until lightly browned bottoms.
  8. While they are baking, melt remaining 3 tbsp butter.
  9. When breadsticks are done, immediately brush remaining butter on top and sprinkle your garlic salt and Italian seasoning on top. Serve warm.
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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Are you a cheesecake fan? I think it’s probably one of my top 5 desserts to make and eat. I love the endless flavor combinations and the cold creamy center.  Speaking of cold, creamy center…do yourself a favor and resist the urge to try your cheesecake warm out of the oven because you have no self-control. It was kinda gross.

Now onto the recipe! Bars are fabulous if you don’t feel like dealing with your springform pan and want ease of serving. Just cut into huge reasonably sized squares and slap some whipped cream on top. Honestly, is there a recipe that whipped cream doesn’t improve upon?  These bars (SPOILER ALERT) have pumpkin in them, which is awesome, and contrary to my children’s claim, pumpkin is NOT just for Thanksgiving and is, in fact, something to be enjoyed from October to December 31 🙂

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Creamy pumpkin cheesecake bars with a graham cracker crust.
pumpkin cheesecake bars
Course Desserts
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
Cheesecake Filling
Course Desserts
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
Cheesecake Filling
pumpkin cheesecake bars
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 F.
  2. Grease a 13 x 9 pan well, including up the sides.
  3. In a bowl, mix your melted butter and graham cracker crumbs.
  4. Press mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan and set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat your cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice.
  6. Beat your eggs in one at a time on low speed. When one egg is incorporated, add another and so on. Don't go nuts here with mixing. Beating at a low speed keeps too much air from getting into your batter and causing cracks.
  7. Pour half your mixture onto your crust. If you want more exact and even layers, use a scale to weigh your batter first and halve that amount for your first layer.
  8. Add your spices and canned pumpkin to the other half of your batter. This will look like a light orange/brown color, but will darken after baking and cooling.
  9. Stir until smooth and carefully pour on top of your first cheesecake layer.
  10. Bake about 45 minutes; you want a bit of wobble still in the middle, but just set on top.
  11. Turn off the oven, open the door, but leave your cheesecake in there. Let it sit in place for about 15 minutes.
  12. Take out of oven and cool on wire rack. When completely cool, cover and put in fridge for 3 hours before digging in.
  13. When ready to serve, slice with a sharp knife wiped off between cuts to get a nice look. Garnish with whipped cream.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from A Treats Affair.

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Creamy Nutella Pudding

This recipe came about as a result of being out of peanut butter…let’s just say I’m glad I dropped the ball on stockpiling the PB 😉 This Nutella pudding didn’t last long in our house and there weren’t any leftovers.

CAUTION: This isn’t a recipe for those who “kinda” like Nutella – it’s for those of us who eat it straight out of the container with a spoon. Nutella is an awesome substitute in recipes where you don’t mind some chocolate flavor (who would mind that??).  Whipped cream dolloped right on top before serving takes this recipe over the edge, and actually cuts back just a bit on the sweetness of the pudding. Make this a few hours before you dive in, as you’ll need to let it firm up and get cold in the fridge first.

This recipe also is a great way to use up egg yolks if you *ahem* have a macaron-making addiction (see http://www.weirdlittlefrenchcookie.com/recipe/easy-strawberry-macarons/ 🙂 Enjoy! – Tiffany

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Creamy Nutella Pudding
A rich and tasty Nutella pudding that comes together quickly.
Nutella pudding
Course Desserts
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
people
Ingredients
Nutella pudding
Instructions
  1. Whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Don't put this on the stove top yet!
  2. Slowly whisk in your milk and break up any cornstarch lumps.
  3. Whisk in your egg yolks and Nutella. Don't worry if it's a bit lumpy; it will smooth out while cooking.
  4. Place your pan on medium heat and continue to whisk. You'll be whisking for 5 to 10 minutes. This will begin to thicken and go from runny to pudding consistency pretty quickly. When it starts to bubble up, turn your heat down to low and cook about a minute more while whisking the whole time.
  5. Remove from heat and strain the pudding through a mesh colander. This will get rid of any lumps and make your finished product nice and smooth.
  6. Stir in your butter and vanilla extract while pudding is still hot.
  7. Let sit for about 5 minutes and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top; this will keep your delicious pudding from getting a "skin" on it.
  8. Chill in the fridge for several hours.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from I Wash You Dry peanut butter pudding.

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Easy Strawberry Macarons

Are you intimidated by these little cuties? I really was, especially after reading everywhere how fickle they are, how important technique is, etc. I’ve now made these well over a dozen times and each batch gets better than the last. I think the key is the batter consistency more than anything else. Here are some things I DON’T do, as I haven’t found them necessary for making macarons (macs for short!):

– aging the egg whites (I only separate them an hour or 2 ahead of time to get them to room temp so they whip up better)

– using cream of tartar (I used this for several batches and then left it out, and haven’t seen a difference in my macs)

As we speak I have close to a dozen egg yolks in my fridge leftover from my macaron-making extravaganza, so I’m open to suggestions on what to do with those!

Here are some step-by-step pics to help you along.

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